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  • FOLKWAYS RF 112

    Side One

    1) Minor March (June 1908) 2) Medley of Straight Jigs (December 1907) 3) Fitzmaurice Polka (June 1928) 4) Medley of German Waltzes (Nov. 1908) 5) American Cakewalk (Comp. J. Kimmel; July 1908) 6) Medley of Irish Jigs (September 1907) 7) "Oh Gee! "-Medley of Irish Reels (June 1919)

    Side Two

    1) Indian Intermezzo (November 1908) 2) New Tipperary March (May 1910) 3) The Black Bird-Set Dance (October 1919) 4) Geese in the Bog Medley-Irish Jigs

    (January 1917) 5) Medley of Popular Reels (April 1908) 6) The Homeward March (January 1920) 7) International Echoes (Comp. Joe Linder;

    November, 1916)

    Selected by Gabriel Labbe Annotated by Gabriel Labbe and Richard Carlin Produced by Richard Carlin

    1980 FOLKWAYS RECORDS & SERVICE CORP. 43 W. 6151 ST., N.Y.C., 10023 N.Y., U.S.A.

    .' [email protected]'~l If ttl, /ml[~~ flr=:: n

    RETUR TO ARCHI E CENTER FOR FOlKlIFE PROGRAMS

    AND CULTURAL STUDIES SMITHSO ~!/~ I !NSTITU ION

    JOHN illMMEL Virtuoso of the Irish Accordion ORIGINAL RECORDINGS 1906-1928

    SELECTED BY GABRIEL LABBE AND PRODUCED BY RICHARD CARLIN

    DESCRIPTIVE NOTES ARE INSIDE POCKET

    FOLKWAYS RF 112

  • r FOLKWAYS RECORDS Album No. RF 112 1980 by Folkways Records & Service Corp., 43 West 61st ST., NYC, USA 10023

    JOHN KIMMEL Virtuoso of the Irish Accordion

    John Kimmel was one of the greatest performers on

    the Irish diatonic button accordion who ever recorded.

    Although of German extract, he mastered the complex

    style ot Irish ornamentation. His medleys of jigs and

    reels were great favorites among the Irish audience in

    America, where he frequently performed on the Vaudeville

    circuit. This album features some of his rarest and

    earliest recordings and makes available a ~ide crcss-

    section of his repertory, including novelty pieces,

    German popular pieces, Americ~n and Irish tunes.

    John Kimmel's Life

    John Kimmel was born in Brooklyn on December 13,

    1866 to German immigrant parents. At what age did

    he start playing? Who was his teacher? We may never

    know the answers to these questions. What we do know

    from listening to his recordings is that he had a gift

    that no one can equal.

    We know little of Kimmel's life story, although we

    do know that he was a saloon keeper who also performed

    in the early years of vaudeville. Kimmel played with

    the "Elite Musical Four, II a group consisting of himself,

    Joe Linder, the pianist who was to be his accompanist on

    almost all of his classic recordings, and two other

    musicians. In 1906, Kimmel opened a bar in a popular

    section of Brooklyn. In a corner of the room he built a

    stage where he performed with his vaudeville band

    short skits and popular musical numbers Kimmel played

    piano, cornet, xylophone and saxophone at one time or

    another in this group, 41though his true lova was

    the accordion. Patrick F. Stedman, Brooklynite who

    knew Kimmel and the quartet, recalls that they used to

    rllhearse "four or five nights a week in an undertaking

    e,tablishment on Court street .. They practicm their

    Kimmel played the accordion as background music

    for silent films. His recording career ran from the

    earliest days of cylinder recording through the intro-

    duction of electric recording techniques, although his

    greatest recordings were made between 1908 - 1918.

    He can also be heard on several novelty records, including

    possibly a record by the comic duo of Arthur Collins and

    Byron G. Harlau called "My Gal Irene," which features

    accordion interludes that were probably played by Kimmel,

    a comic record by Steve Porter called "Thim Were the

    Happy Days," and a Victor demonstration record

    released to dealers called "The Irresistible Accordion."

    Kimmel died of pneumonia at the King's County

    hospital in Brooklyn on September 18, 1942. Ha was 75

    years old. His death certificate gave his occupation

    as "musician."

    Kimmel's Recording Career

    John Kimmel's first record was made in 1903; it

    was a popular song called "Bedelia" and was released

    by the Zon-o-phone company (No. 5906). It appeared

    on both seven and nine inch discs. Following this

    first recording, Kimmel recorded an "Irish Jigs and

    Reels Medley" (no. 6006), and three other nine inch

    records "Irish Reel Medley" (No. 6047), "AmeriCan

    Polka" (No. 6060) and "Straight Jig Medley" (No. 6071).

    In 1905, at the age of thirty-nine, Kimmel recorded

    two ten inch records for Zon-o-phone: "American clog"

    (No. 212) and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (No. 234; actually

    George M. Cohan's "Yankee Doodle Boy," not the popular

    revolutionary war song). He recorded ten or so records

    in all for this company.

    On these early records and on all of his

    records until his very last recordings, Kimmel was

    expertly accompanied on the piano by Joe Linder. Linder

    was born in Brooklyn on January 23, 1870 and died in 1943.

    He was also apparently of German extract. Unlike

    singing lnd playing their skits." many other recording artists who were plagued with

    Through his career as a saloon owner, Kimmel performed unsympathetic and untalented accompanists, Kimmel

    and also hired other vaudeville performer., including was fortunate to be recording with a pianist who

    Joe Schenk, Gus Van and a young Brooklynite named Mae knew his repertory, had a good knowledge of both

    West. His last bar, nAmed liThe Accordion," was located

    in Queens, but was not terribly successful. Prohibition

    had corne and Kimmel refused to break the law and sell

    alcoholic beverages.

    Irish and novelty music and apparently also helped

    with arranging and even composing some of Kimmel's

    popular records.

  • Kimmel began recording with Edison in May, 1906 For any accordion player who would like to learn

    and continued with the firm until they closed in 1929. Kimmel's style, it is inconceivable to use less than

    He also recorded for Columbia, Victor, and countless three fingers on the right hand. Kimmel loved to play

    smaller firms including Emerson, Silvertone, Perfect, in octaves, which requires the use of four fingers.

    Velvet Tone, and Regal. Kimmel recorded forty cylinders Many of the difficult passages in his pi e ces d e mand

    and 78 rpm records for Columbia and Edison, whereas the use of four fingers. Kimmel found a personal me thod

    his production was limited to discs at Victor. to control the bellows of the accordion by putting very

    The most popular of his Edison recordings were "The little pressure on them with his left hand, allowing

    Kimmel March," uThe Homeward March," "Oh Gee!,n and his right hand to exert most of the force. This is how

    "Medley of Irish Reels." he achieved the clarity and brilliance of his sound.

    At Victor, his "Isnsh Boy March" (same as "Kimmel March"), Kimmel made only limited use of his bass notes. He also

    "Minor March" and "American Polka" were the most successful,

    and remained in the catalogue for years. His medley

    of "The Geese in the Bog" backed with "Stack of Barley, ,.

    recorded in January, 1917, was in the catalogue as late

    as 1933!

    In the early Edison catalogues, Kimmel's name

    was misspelled as Kimmble." Also, . many of his

    compositions and arrangements were credited to

    a certain "Edgar De Veau," probably a pseudonymn

    for Kimmel himself. On some records, Joe Linder

    is given line credit as arranger. Undoubtedly, the

    two discussed their arrangements together.

    Kimmel's last recordings were made in 1929 for

    Edison, and were released as "Ed::ison Diamond Discs"

    in the early months of 1929. Unfortunately, sales

    of these records had dropped tremendously I the

    Edison process of making records was outmoded by more

    modern grooved records. For this reason, these

    last recordings are among the most difficult to find.

    Kimmel's Style

    Philippe Bruneau, the talented French Canadian

    accorcHon player, says this of Kimmel's style:

    His playing is very difficult to imitate. Anyone who would want to play like Kimmel would have to devote himself to 20 or 30 years of practice. This person would also have to have a natural musical capability, otherwise he might as well give up at the start.

    Generally, Kimm9~ used a diatonic accordion, with

    a lO-button keyboard in the key of "D." He probably

    had either a "Sterling" or "Monarch" accordion (imported

    from Germany). These accordions are sometimes called

    "melodians" today. They are distinguished by four

    set. of steel reeds that is to say four registers:

    a picolo, bass and two mediums for the right hand,

    and two basses, "D" when the bellows are pushed, and

    "A" when they are pulled open. There is also a button

    for air rele.le which serves to control the bellows.

    sought to go beyond the limitations of the "0" scale

    of his accordion, exploring such diverse keys as "G,"

    "Em," "A," "Bm," and "Flm."

    His style can be summed up by this amusing excerpt

    from the Edison musical magazine Along Broadway published

    in 1920:

    The fellow who writes things for the Encylcopedia Britannica said in describing the accordion tha-t "this, the smallest of the organ family, in the hands of a skillful performer is not entirely without artistic beauty.1I It is a safe wager tha